The Story of Nirbhaya, Rape and the Indian Culture (Part – I)

Once upon a time, in a time not so long ago, there was a colossal empire ranging from snowy mountains to tropical oceans, upon which there lay a curse. It said that every third daughter born into the empire would be sexually assaulted, but no one would care. Sure enough, women were raped and abused for centuries, and matters just seemed to keep on getting worse. But, no one in the empire did anything because, well it was their curse, what were they supposed to do? Things got so bleak that mothers started killing their baby girls as soon as they were born either smothering them with pillows, or letting them starve to death; because such a death was preferable to the life that awaited them. With every decade, the crimes grew bolder, and the victims, younger. And, every time the victim’s families would cry for justice, the empire would turn a deaf ear towards them, reiterating how going against their culture was a definite way to get raped.

Well, I stand here, today, before all of you, to testify that rape doesn’t happen despite Indian culture; it happens due to it. Maybe our culture isn’t the only reason, but it’s the main thrusting force, as I will show in my next post.

Anyhow, nothing seemed to change. From the apathy of the government, the people despaired, and criminals drew hope. From the corrupt, inefficient police force, the political class took what they wanted. And, when they could afford it, the public learned to try and buy its justice. But, justice is a shy bedfellow, and she doesn’t sleep with filth.

She took birth within this empire, Justice did. In the form of a little girl whose parents sold off everything to educate her. So that they could save up money for higher education, they ate meals of Rotis and salt. They sent her off to the mountains to study, because she would be “safe” there. And, she grew up determined to help other poor girls and boys like herself, studying hard to make her parents proud. And, they were. They were so proud that they let her live a normal life, unlike many other families in this empire who breed their daughters with the sole purpose of “catching” a good husband for them. Unfortunately, the curse of the third girl fell on her. And, as she was returning home with her friend one night, three hours before even 16 year old Cinderella’s curfew, four ugly ogres decided to stop her and assault her.

Now, the rule of the empire was that the curse had been earned, and had to be “respected”. For some fucked up, perverted reason, IMHO. If you were born a girl, and a male from the empire wanted to have sexual intercourse with you, if you valued your life, you would let him rape you. But, if you were raped, the empire deemed you dead anyway. And, your relatives would lament the fact that since your seal was broken, they would have so much more trouble getting a “good husband” for you. Courts and lawyers demanded raped women to prove that they had tried to fight off their attackers. “Where are your injuries?” “Why didn’t you fight back?” Politicians demanded to know why the raped woman had dared to set her unmarried foot outside the house. And, if there was a boy involved, well, according to the Empire, she might as well have been wearing a sign on her forehead that said “Open”.

Does it disgust you? Yes, it disgusts me too. Yet, the funny thing is, the vast majority of the Empire actually believed that if women behaved in a certain way, they deserved to have a random bloke shoving themselves into their bodies. This bizarre notion seems completely insane when seen objectively, but the Indian culture actually encourages and promotes the mentality of a rapist, as I will clearly show in my next post.

For now, I want to tell you what happened to that girl, born of justice. “Where are your injuries?”, they would ask. Well, she chose her dignity over her life, a personal choice, and one that I am so sorry to believe our society forced her into making. “Where are your injuries?”, asks our *legal* system.

Plastered on every front page  of every newspaper across the world, your honor.

So brutal that she could not speak, Mr. Counsel. So horrific that to just say that she was sodomized with an iron rod, and her entrails literally ripped out is an injustice to what our country’s culture put her through, your lordship.

Don’t stop with the four accused (one of whom played a nice relaxing game of tennis before hanging himself to death). Find that politician who dared to ask all those victims of rape why they were out so late. Find all those policemen who turned away sobbing girls from their stations, saying that an FIR would only damage their reputation. Find the cops who beat up a minor rape victim. Find the cops who handed Rs. 2000 to the father of a five year old girl who was sexually assaulted by two men, who once again proved their insecurities by seeing the need to penetrate the child’s body with multiple objects. Another three year old suffered brain damage during a rape. Three sisters aged 5, 9 and 11 were raped and murdered in Maharashtra last month.

Is this not our culture? It is! These men that you call brutes, you have fed them their parathas and milk. You have shown them how the women of your house are treated. How the women of your empire are treated. Don’t throw away all responsibility now. These are your children. Your children who raped, tortured and brutally murdered a young girl who was only trying to help this worthless empire of filth.

Somehow, though hundreds of women were being brutalized across the country it was this girl, who fought back until she lost consciousness; kicking until two of the men restrained her legs, punching and scratching until one of them restrained her arms, biting three of the accused as they raped her, presumably screaming for one deaf ear in this entire empire to stop this disgusting invasion of her self; it was this girl that woke up the individuals sleeping across this great empire.

But the Indian culture doesn’t care for the individual.

And, after she had been literally torn apart by our fellow-men, they tossed her bleeding body out of their vehicle, where she lay for over an hour until one of the gawking citizens decided to call the police. The police took another hour to get there. By that time, the girl had been bleeding all over the Capital’s cold roads, in the middle of December, for over two hours. The State police took one look at her, and refused to touch her. She was naked, you see. And her intestines had been torn apart with a rusted iron rod. As her injured friend carried her into the police vehicle, they drove to a far-off hospital because God only knows what their priorities are. And, by the time she got to the hospital, her internal organs were infected, and her brain shutting down.

Did you resist?
Can you prove that you resisted?
Where are the injuries?

This Court is now adjourned.

Rape: Is it a Man v Woman thing?

Rape is not about Men v Women. Our rape culture is not about men on one side, and women on the other. It’s one kind of people v another kind of people. Just like there are good men, there are foul women, and vice versa of course. There are men and women both on each side of this war. We must remember that.

Rape is not about sex, it is about the establishment of superiority or dominance. In the twisted, disgusting mind of the rapist, rape is the punishment meted out to someone who is “crossing lines”. And women are just as capable as men of being cruel and vicious. It’s just that they rarely get the chance.

The British managed to separate the Hindus and Muslims, let’s not let our own government divide us into women and men. Seriously, it is not a Man vs Woman issue. For is it not true that women also hold this view? Our women scientists, our women ministers, aunties sitting at home, and women who frequently serve as accomplices to rapes; these women actually hold the view that in this World, a woman “cannot own a vagina”. (obscure movie reference)

The repeated and consistent apathy shown by most political leaders, both male and female, has emboldened young, mostly uneducated, men into thinking it is okay to assault women, certain in their conviction that these women deserve it, similar to the fanatical chant of the masses that the rapists deserve public torture or executions, a clear indication of the pervasive nature of the disregard for human life in India, and further a lack of recognition as female life as human life.

The point is that there is a fence dividing us all, but this fence does not stand between men and women; it stands between those with a closed off mentality that are threatened by female sexuality, and those that welcome such a liberation. And, maybe, just maybe, it is the start of a war between those who value human life for life, and those who are incapable of comprehending the same. Both men and women stand on both sides. Men here may not have had to fear for their own life or safety on a daily basis like each and ever ordinary female citizen of India does, but any man who belongs to this side of the fence has spent enough time dealing with these issues through his life. And, we welcome each and every ally we can get, ladies and gentlemen.

We are those who agree that our rights are more important than just god-damned modesty.

And, We are Men and Women, who stand here United.

Cease the Misogyny. End the Impunity. Stop Rape.

Requiescat in pace, my Sister from Delhi

Dear Sister,

Can I call you that? I’m afraid I never dared give you a name, not even a symbolic one. And Nirbhaya, Ragini, Damini, these are not your names. No, you had your own name, your own identity, and an entire lifetime that no one can take away from you. You laughed, and lived, and loved.

And you fought, suffered and were brutally murdered.

I wish I could say I was here to celebrate your life, but I know nothing about you. Why don’t I know your name? Why do we live in the kind of society where the victim of a crime has to be hidden for fear of social stigma? What social stigma? For being attacked? For surviving it? I wish I could say I hate them, sister, but I’m one of them too. And, through all these years, through all these crimes that we’ve been hearing about, we’ve kept quiet, and you paid the price in full.

So, no, I’m not here to celebrate anything. I’m here for the lifetime that they did take away from you, sister. The lifetime we let them take away from you in one single horrific hour. As an entire nation, as a society, we waited and we watched as our women were raped and brutalized, and we bought bigger locks and better alarm systems, and we told our friends and daughters and sisters and mothers to be careful. But, we never said a word against them.

And, now we’ve killed you…

How does it help you to know that we’re all distraught over your death? How does it help you to know that people will cry for you, are already doing so? How does it help you to know that I don’t even dare to sleep tonight because I’m afraid I’ll dream of you? For, I’m too ashamed to look you in the eye, Sister. I don’t know what I would say to you.

“All Indians are my brothers and sisters”, our school used to make us say, every single morning, come rain or shine or bomb squads. Children regularly fainted and threw up, and a lot of parents complained. Our school built a roof, put up some fans, but we never missed a day of the morning assembly. The Pledge and the National Anthem.

What good were those vows, sister? And, what would our founding fathers say about this absurd hatred that has pervaded Indian society? Because, in India at least, Rape is more of a hate crime than just an instance of gender violence. A large part of India is literally misogynistic, and the passion with which they hate women is just overwhelming. I have a theory on this; I believe that these men represent the part of India that has long been fed on films and movies where the hero “woos” the girl by following her around, stalking her and whistling at her on the streets. These men take these ideas and apply them in regular life, and seek to approach “modern” women in the same way, expecting to be positively acknowledged. When these women express fear or disgust, these men perceive that they have been rejected or rebuked, and start hating women with a passion, because they know that once women achieve sexual liberation as a nation, no woman in their right minds would marry the likes of them. And, here I blame arranged marriages, because if people were left to themselves, the idiots and the misogynists would be automatically weeded out.

But how does any of this matter to you now, Sister?

I want to live” I know you never said those words; you were raped and sodomized and beaten so badly that you couldn’t even speak.. But, in my mind, you are forever going to be saying those words to me, dearest sister.

And, I shall be forever failing you…

Six Men. Six men against one young girl. Our country should be ashamed for ourselves. That’s the culture we have? A culture of cowards? Because, believe me when I say this: I am not a feminist, I am an individualist, and that just makes me a whole lot more dangerous, and a whole lot more enraged. And there is nothing I loathe more than the cruelty of cowardice. It’s beyond despicable. A man raped a two year old baby, after tying her legs together, the day after they tortured you for an hour. She died two days ago.. Was she out at an inappropriate hour? Was she dressed in “immodest attire”? Was she behaving “inappropriately”? No. She wasn’t raped for any of the reasons they like to throw in our faces, sister. She was raped because we have a law and order problem. She was raped because our country is still stuck in a misogynistic mindset best represented by the son of the Indian President when he said that it is not protesting if women “go to discotheques at night and candle-light vigils in the day”. Mind you, sister, this is the idiot who also said that the women at the venue were too beautiful to be protesters, so we are terrified at the fact that these are the people who are our law-makers.

Our law-makers? No wonder nothing has changed. No wonder that infant was so brutally raped that she succumbed to her injuries a day after fighting for her barely-begun life. She is dead today, because our country is inept, apathetic and corrupt beyond comprehension. These are the same reasons why six drunk men felt confident enough in attacking you and your boyfriend in a bus, and then raping you as they beat him unconscious. Can we even imagine the agony of that moment? No. But, my mind won’t stop trying, sister, and it hurts so bad.

And, what about the love you have left behind? My heart bleeds for you, young Ser. And, I swear to you, I swear that I will never stop fighting. Never. I wish I knew her name so it could be the one I whisper before I ever do anything and everything in my power to destroy this rape-culture that we all helped bring into existence.

Because there is a rape culture here. One that is so pervasive, living a normal life has become impossible in this country if you are a woman. For all the men reading this, imagine what it would feel like if you were always at war, lets say with Pakistan, and that we lived on some border. Where some unidentified person can just come and pick you up and take you away if you don’t keep your eyes open wide enough, phone always in hand while walking in an empty locality, edging away from cars that slow down at footpaths. You guys, it’s become physically exhausting and intolerable. And, yes, you can empathize, and I’m so glad you do, because we need every single ally we can all get, but the fact remains that a lot of men don’t want to see women raped, yet half of them still talk in terms of protecting a lady’s modesty instead of giving her her rights.

Five years ago, my senior from college was viciously stabbed to death as he stood up against some miscreants who were harassing a fellow student. A few months back, my junior was raped. And, now they’ve killed you. Please forgive me if I leave it up to the good people of this country to make sure that the perpetrators, your assailants, get the “justice” you deserve. (The “justice” they deserve… I fear humanity cannot provide) I intend to make it my life’s goal that this Country becomes the kind of place where both men and women can walk out of their doors at any point of time, knowing that their constitutional right to life guarantees them the safety they deserve. The safety we deserve. The safety you deserved…

And, what is expected is not even idealistic. It is only realistic that the State provide you with security regardless of your gender, or the time. And, when I say “provide you with security”, I mean a secure neighborhood and country, where crimes are the anomalies, not the norm. What we have now is rampant abuse of the law and an inefficient bureaucratic set-up that works for no one but those who are corrupt and apathetic.

Because, they are well protected. They have their chauffeur driven cars, and their servants to go to the market, and their guards to watch their homes. They don’t care about you and I. They don’t care that even the drunk scum who met you on the bus dared to ask you why you were out alone with a man because our well-protected politicians themselves keep saying those words. Our government has been screaming those questions out so loud – “Why were you out?”, “Who were you with?”, “What were you wearing?”, that even the rapists have realized that they’re the lucky ones in this entire scenario.

You’re only the one who died…

Not even the most brutal torture can bring you back. Not the most painful punishment is going to make your boyfriend or your family feel any better. But you asked us to make sure they’re caught and punished, and they will be.

But, they’re not the reason you are dead, they are just the way it happened. Our society is to blame for your funeral. We are to blame for what they did to you.

I just can’t get over the fact that for 10 days, you were fighting this, and you told all of us that you wanted to live.

We did nothing to protect you.

And we couldn’t do anything to save you.

Forgive me, Sister.

Shamefully Indian but Proudly yours,

Love,

me.